Pew: Housing Market Is the Bright Spot in Philly’s Cloudy Skies

millennialsA younger, better educated, upwardly mobile horde has descended on Philadelphia, transforming swaths of the city into something barely recognizable to old-timers. This demographic touched off a residential building boom last year, the single strongest positive indicator of the city’s rebound, according to the Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative’s latest “Philadelphia: State of the City” update.

More than half of all Philadelphians are now under the age of 35, and 26 percent are between the ages of 20 and 34, when young adults are in the process of launching careers and households. Building places for these residents to live has become a growth industry: in 2013, the city issued building permits for 2,815 new housing units, the most in a decade. That new construction has an estimated value of $465 million, the highest on record.

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Morning Headlines: Winter Keeps Homebuyers Away From South Jersey

home for sale

Cold bursts may be a tiresome frustration for Philadelphians longing for spring, but in South Jersey the implications of cold weather are more concerning: The real estate market there is taking quite a hit.

The problem is that when it snows, potential homebuyers are less likely to go house-hunting at the shore. Other factors are at play as well, according to CBS Philly: “New Jersey’s job growth is behind the national average and mortgage rates have gone up.”

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Philadelphia: Second Best Market for Home Buying in U.S.

Detail from Zillow's Buyers and Sellers map.

Detail from Zillow’s Buyers and Sellers map.

This is good news! has ranked Philadelphia No. 2 in its list of the 10 best buyers’ markets. What does that mean? From Zillow Blog:

In buyers’ markets, homes for sale stay on the market longer, price cuts occur more frequently and homes are sold for less relative to their listing price.

“In the East, housing markets are appreciating a bit more slowly, and homes are staying on the market longer, which helps give buyers the upper hand,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries

“In general, buyers in sellers’ markets this spring can expect tight inventory, increased competition and a greater sense of urgency. Sellers in buyers’ markets may need to be prepared to lower their asking price, or to wait longer for the perfect buyer to come along.”

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Adventures in Home Buying: The Appraisal Waiting Game

emailAs I have alluded, we are squarely in the middle of the hurry-up-and-wait phase of home buying. Back in the salad days of February, I foolishly believed that the toughest part was behind us. That was before I was reminded that our mortgage involves an appraisal. Which we are currently on pins and needles awaiting.

For those of you not in the know, should the appraisal come in under what we and the sellers have agreed to pay for the home, renegotiations begin. So I’m a little stressed. Some people do productive things like clean or bake or read when they’re stressed. I tend to turn things over in my head until they are rubbed smooth and I am a ball of nerves. Also, I make lists.

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Real Estate Website Uses Kitten GIFs to Attract Readers. Good Idea!

youtube screen shot

A still from a very good YouTube video about getting your cat to go on a diet.

The Llenrock Blog about commercial real estate already has its work cut out for it in attracting readers who aren’t in the biz. And when it comes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it’s even harder. In fact, even Llenrock blogger Eric Hawthorn “quickly become[s] bored by conversations on the subject.”

But he feels compelled to write about the two GSEs due to some, um, like, important developments…and…actually, we don’t want to talk about the GSEs either. We just want to show you how Hawthorn chose to make the conversation “more palatable to your average, easily bored reader.” With kitten GIFs! 

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Philadelphia Is in Top 10 Most Unequal Metros

homeless man in septa station

Photo: Liz Spikol

Writing for Trulia Trends and The Atlantic Cities, Trulia’s CEO Jed Kolko says what the Occupy movement brought to mainstream consciousness, even as everyone derided those who soapboxed the message: “Income inequality has been growing in America, driven by technology, globalization, and other factors. It’s caused tensions between the haves and have-nots, which often get played out at the local level, and these tensions have erupted into fights over housing affordability and public services.”

Kolko examines income inequality in the 100 largest metros for the years 2012, 2006, 2000, and 1990. Based on collected Census data, Kolko finds that the Philadelphia metro’s rich-poor gap is in the top 10 — No. 7, to be exact. Here’s a chart:

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Adventures in Home Buying: The Big Reveal

So yes, as it turns out, we were going to make our decision about buying a house based on 10 minutes talking to a stranger. Considering how much we loved House 1, we just couldn’t wrap our heads around making an offer on House 2, which we also liked but had a potential downside we weren’t sure we’d ever escape.

We decided on House 1 and simultaneously vowed not to look back. We were choosing our choice! It was hard to tell what excited me more: imagining my sudden culinary genius in a dreamboat kitchen or simply not having to look at any more houses. The truth was, it didn’t matter. We traded ambiguity for calm certitude and I slept through the night for the first time in almost a week.

Making the offer and negotiating was another matter. Read more »

RealtyTrac Adds Drug Lab, Sex Offender, Environmental Hazard Data

realtytrac report

A screen shot of a RealtyTrac report with some new information.

The real estate and housing data source RealtyTrac has always been pretty thorough when it comes to information for the properties listed on its website. You’d see schools, area crime, property history — plenty of fun facts to sort through. But now the company is taking it several steps further with its newest data dump: Each property will also have information about local environmental hazards, sex offenders, meth labs, and surrounding construction — all in one place! No more will you have to go to one site to check on a neighborhood’s sex offenders and another site to look for building permits. RealtyTrac has it all.

RealtyTrac now has 34 data points for each listing, including the de rigeur and the unusual or hard-to-find: foreclosure status, outstanding loans and position, current owner’s name and mailing address, local schools, crime rates, comparable sales and price trends, and very broad information about area unemployment rates and even risk of tornado, earthquake and radon exposure.

Let’s give it a try. I’ll use my own neighborhood, Cedar Park in West Philadelphia, as a case study.

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Philadelphia Rental Market Poised for Takeoff

millennialsThe prospects for new multifamily construction in Philly look good in the long run, a panel of insiders say – but there are some matters that need to be addressed for the market to truly blossom. The millennial generation (pictured at left) is getting tired of living with its parents and is ready to strike out on its own. Developers and investors are now giving them the apartments to rent here, and are ready to supply even more if the jobs they need materialize.

That was the rough consensus of the panelists who spoke on the state of the Philadelphia rental property market at the RealShare Philadelphia conference at the Union League Feb. 27.

Things are picking up on the multifamily front, said panel moderator Jerald M. Goodman, partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. In fact, he said, “Multifamily is hot.”

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Morning Headlines: Trulia Says Philly Homeowners Are Saving More

Old City unit with "For rent" sign by Miss Anthropology via Flickr.

Old City unit with “For Rent” sign by Miss Anthropology via Flickr.

To buy or to rent? Chances are the latter seems like the safer option. Yet, according to a recent analysis by Trulia, homebuyers may be making the more economic choice — at least in Philadelphia, where the housing market has steadied in recent years.

When comparing the city’s median home and rent prices, the real estate website discovered Philly homeowners would be paying 48% less than if they were leasing for seven years. That’s under the national average where homeowners save close to 38%.

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